Reframing America has been collectively organized on the occasion of the 2021 course Contemporary Issues in Curating at Baruch College (CUNY). Throughout the summer, the curators researched works in the college’s art collection that responded to a myriad of critical issues regarding “Americana,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture broadly.” Art has always been a mirror for society. As America is in the throes of simultaneous health, economic, labor, gender and racial justice crises, this exhibition looks to art to help us grapple with the current situation, while also considering the country’s past to understand where the issues at hand arise from.
Each curator of Reframing America has identified three works from the collection which resonate with their understanding of what American identity would have meant to these artists, as seen through the lens of today. Rather than create one unified concept of American identity or nationality, the exhibition aims to diversify and complicate “America” through artworks that represent numerous ideas: from Mary Ascher’s pictorial representations of oppressive ideologies, Andy Warhol’s portraits of Indigenous fictions, Milt Hinton’s celebratory coverage of famous African American jazz performers, Walker Evans’ humanistic depictions of families during the Great Depression, and so much more.
According to Walter Benjamin, “the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner.” Many factors have shaped the collection over decades, but this exhibition puts the personal back into the narrative through the interpretation of its student stakeholders. It also complicates what curatorial work means by curating this project together and sharing it with fellow Baruch and CUNY communities for years to come through this digital platform.
Reframing America: Works from the Baruch College Art Collection has been curated by Jonathan Anderson, Bianca Bailey, Wendy Berot, Zhidan Dai, Marcello Di Russo, Elena Freije Urdaneta, Randall Houston, Shawn-Ta Jones, Joyce Laoagan, Zachary Longstreet, Christina Lynch, Jeff Park, Ali Rossi, Robin Schatell, Jialu Tang, and Weigine (Marisa) Wang. The exhibition is part of a curatorial partnership between the Mishkin Gallery and Baruch’s MA in Arts Administration program.
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